Forte favored in Belmont Stakes

The recently star-crossed Forte has been installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite in Saturday’s 155th running of the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes, the final jewel in racing’s Triple Crown.

“We still think this is the best 3-year-old in the crop and I think on Saturday he’s going to prove that,” said Mike Repole, co-owner of Forte.

Forte was the morning line favorite for the May 6 Kentucky Derby but was scratched by the state veterinarian the morning of the race. Because he was a vet scratch, that sent him to the sidelines for two weeks and forced him to miss the Preakness, in which he also likely would have been favored.

As a result, Forte has not started since April 1, which would seem to make returning to action in a 12-furlong contest a dicey proposition. But trainer Todd Pletcher did not seem concerned.

“You have to expect him to be a fit horse,” the Hall of Fame conditioner said. “It’s 10 weeks between races, but he had a great foundation leading into that and he hasn’t missed much training. His breezes here have been very good. I personally haven’t seen the bottom of him. In all of his training, he comes back and cools out quickly.”


Forte, last year’s two-year-old champion, will have Irad Ortiz, Jr. in the irons.

Forte is only a narrow favorite, and the reason for that is Pletcher’s other entrant, Tapit Trice who’s 3-1 on the morning line. The Tapit colt had entered the Kentucky Derby on a four-race win streak but finished a troubled seventh after rallying from last of 18.

“He’s got a big, long stride on him,” Pletcher said. “If we can get him into a good position and into a good rhythm, I think he’s going to like the mile and a half. He’s been training that way.”

National Treasure
National Treasure won the Preakness Stakes. Photo by Allison Janezci.

Tapit’s offspring have had great success in the Belmont Stakes. Four of them have won the race since 2013. Luis Saez will ride Tapit Trice.

Angel of Empire, a rallying third as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby, will don blinkers for the Belmont, trainer Brad Cox, a result of a suggestion made by rider Flavien Prat. Angel of Empire is 7-2 on the morning line.

“I don’t know that [blinkers] would have made a big difference in winning the Derby, but I do know that he does train well in them,” Cox said. “It’s something to experiment with and see what happens. I’m very happy with where he’s at.”     

National Treasure, who posted a game, front-running score in the Grade 1 Preakness at Pimlico May 20, will leave from post four with John Velazquez in the irons He is 5-1 on the morning line. His running style should be an asset in the Belmont.

“He’s been going over the track very well here,” said Jimmy Barnes, assistant to trainer Bob Baffert. “I couldn’t be happier with him. We’re happy to be here and participating in this Belmont and I look forward for good things to happen.”

Arcangelo is the only other runner in single digits, at 8-1. Trained by Jena Antonucci, the Arrogate ridgeling won the Grade 3 Peter Pan, the local prep for the Belmont, in his most recent start. He was a $35,000 yearling.

“It’s unbelievable to be here with all these Hall of Fame trainers,” said owner Jon Ebbert. “Jena [Antonucci, trainer] has done a great job. It’s a dream.”

Javier Castellano, who earned his first Kentucky Derby winner earlier this spring aboard Mage, will have the mount. Mage’s connections passed on the Belmont for races later in the year.

Hit Show, Red Route One, and Tapit Shoes round out the field.

The Belmont is the 12th race on a 13-race card. First post for the card is 11:20 a.m., and the Belmont is scheduled for 7:02.